Incisional Hernia


  • Bulge at the surgery site
  • Dragging pain (esp in obese, pregnant ladies)
  • Relieved by abdominal binding
  • Complications: obstruction or strangulation
  • Don’t insist on feeling the size of defect (esp if non-reducible), why? very painful and it won’t change anything in the management in the clinic -> measure it in the OR


Patient-related factors:

  • Age: old age is related to weak fascia -> improper healing
  • Gender is controversial
  • Poor glycemic control:
    • Diabetes is not an independent risk factor of incisional hernia
    • Most important pre-op prep to prevent surgical-site infections is strict glycemic control (which is measure by HgbA1C) (more important than antibiotics)
  • Surgical site infection is the single most imp factor of developing incisional hernia!
  • Collagen vascular diseases: Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, SLE, vasculitis
  • Smoking -> causes degradation of collage and destroys good fascia
    • AAA -where smoking affects the content of collage in a vessel wall- surgery through a midline laparotomy carries a higher risk of hernia
  • Immunodeficiency: congenital, acquired, immunosuppressive therapy, steroid, chemo, radiation
  • Malnutrition: can be general or specific (zinc or vitamin C deficiency), obesity (a form of malnutrition)
  • Increased intra-abdominal pressure: due to;
    • Obesity
    • Pregnancy
    • Ascites: hepatic (portal HTN), cardiac (right HF), renal (nephrotic), intestinal (protein-losing enteropathy), peritoneal dialysis, carcinomatosis
    • Intra-abdominal tumors which attain large caner: ovarian, endometrial fibroids, desmoid tumors, GEST, lymphomas, cystic lesions of pancreas, mesenteric cyst
    • Retroperitoneal tumors or sarcoma
    • Chronic cough
    • Constipation
    • BPH causing chronic obstructive urinary symptoms


Surgery related factors:

  • Types of incisions
    • Midline laparotomy is the worst when it comes to risk of incisional hernia but the best for exposure
  • Same incision, different procedure:
    • Midline laparotomy for splenectomy -> clean
    • Midline laparotomy for gastrectomy -> clean-contaminated
    • Midline laparotomy for colectomy in a prepped colon -> contaminated
    • Midline laparotomy for colectomy in an un-prepped colon -> dirty
  • Same incision, same procedure, elective vs emergency:
    • Left hemicolectomy on emergency -> higher risk of herniation compared to elective left hemicolectomy
  • Closure:
    • No difference in the risk of hernia between interrupted vs continuous closure -> so for convenience, we always close w\ continuous
    • What’s important is taking good fascia, good distance, no tension (which causes recurrence and strangulation of tissue)
  • Type of suture:
    • No difference between resorbable vs non-resorbable -> so use appropriately resorbable sutures (which gives enough time for fascia to heal and prevent hernia)


CASE: 2 patients, one w\ 10-cm defect, the other w\ 2-cm defect. Which one you’ll do first?  The smaller one -> risk of bowel entrapments, strangulation, and irreducibility

CASE: Child-Pugh C cirrhotic pt, bed bound, very little activity, w\ wide neck hernia. Would you repair it? No, b\c he is a poor surgical candidate and the hernia is not “bothering” him



  • Surgical repair for active pts with symptoms
    • Mesh vs no mesh?
      • Primary hernia -> depends on the size:
        • Big primary hernia -> mesh
        • Small primary hernia -> no mesh
      • Incisional hernia -> always use mesh!
      • Mesh doesn’t increase the risk of infection, but makes infection easier to develop .. 🙂
      • Always give pre-op abx if you’re contemplating putting a mesh
    • Open vs laparoscopic?
      • Small hernia (1-2 cm) -> open
      • 3 cm hernia -> laparoscopic
      • Giant hernia (> 15 cm, should be taken in the light of torso size, or > 50% of abdominal content outside) -> open
    • Don’t advise pt to use abdominal banding if they are a surgical candidate, why?
      1. Pressure on the skin -> skin abrasions and infection -> high risk of surgical-site infection
      2. Disuse atrophy


Lumbar hernia 

  • Difficult to treat; no fascia + between two bony prominences -> no place to fixate mesh

Epigastric hernia:

  • Anywhere in the midline (linea alba = extra-peritoneal fat -> no true sac, only breach in muscle fibers), from xiphoid to 2-cm above umbilicus, usually small and very painful


Download the PDF version: here


  • Dr Alabeidi’s lecture and clinical notes

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